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Curtin University
John Curtin Day
John Curtin Medallists

Chris Lewis (2000)

Chris Lewis has a clear vision of a better world for young people from difficult and underprivileged backgrounds, in particular those who are young Aborigines, his people’s future.

He has excelled as a leader, from his first years in the Teal Cup representing Western Australia, through 14 years as an on-field and off-field role model in the Australian Football League.

Chris serves the community working with youth groups in schools and surrounding areas. He visits the Nollamara Community several times a week to “just have a chat with the kids” and much, much more. He also appears on television to inform the wider community about the importance of providing opportunities for young people.

Throughout his football career, Chris was often vilified through racial taunts and media abuse. Always, for himself and the Aboriginal people, he fought back to win the respect of everyone in the game and in the wider community. This was recognised last May when over 30,000 people marked his retirement from football with a standing ovation as he took a lap of honour at Subiaco Oval.

Chancellor, Chris Lewis is already an icon in Western Australia, well known yet unassuming, respected and loved as one of the state’s greatest footballers of all time. Throughout his life he has inspired young and old people with his ready smile, his courage in adversity, and his espousal of family values.

Like John Curtin, Chris is now dedicating himself to work for the betterment of life in the wider community, in particular for young Aboriginal people.

John Curtin Medallists

Dame Rachel Cleland (2000)

At a time of life when many would expect to be enjoying retirement, Dame Rachel Cleland has been lobbying, campaigning, and actively ‘working for the forests’.

She is also someone who knew John Curtin, not only as a prominent politician but also as her local member. After Curtin died in July 1945, Dame Rachel’s late husband Don won pre-selection to contest the vacant seat of Fremantle, the very first candidate in Australia of the newly formed Liberal Party.

Dame Rachel was a kindergarten teacher when she married in 1928. Like all married women at that time she was required to resign. She dedicated the ensuing years to working for others, especially in New Guinea when Port Moresby was being rebuilt in 1951. Before and after her husband was appointed Administrator in 1953, she served the New Guinea community with great distinction, continuing after he retired in 1967, and for four years after his death in 1975.

Her vision then, which she pursued with her customary vigour, was for the development of associations for women of all ages in the towns and villages of Papua New Guinea.

Since returning to Perth 20 years ago she has thrown herself into many causes. The first major cause was rescuing her old Kindergarten Teacher’s College, Meerilinga, in West Perth. Not only was the building saved but it now houses the Meerilinga Young Children’s Foundation, and the Young Children’s Services Inc., filling a long felt need in Perth.

The most recent cause, which also saw her described as “the matriarch of the Liberal Party”, is saving the old-growth forests in the South-West of Western Australia. According to Dame Rachel, it is these sorts of activities that are the secret for living a long life.

Dame Rachel is still a role model for others. The Hon Colin Barnett is on record as saying about her only last year: “She reminds party members and politicians of what their true values are, or should be”.

John Curtin Medallists

The Granny Smith Gold Mine Company (2000)

The Granny Smith Gold Mine Company has shown leadership to the mining industry in Australia particularly in working with Native Title claimants for a just resolution of the issues, regular ongoing cultural awareness training of all its staff, and mine site rehabilitation.

‘Granny Smith’ is regarded by its peers as being at the leading edge of the development of sustainable environmental practices, and the employment of Aboriginal people in mainstream jobs on mine sites.

‘Granny Smith’ has worked with the local communities of Laverton and Leonora to increase training opportunities for Aborigines. They have facilitated mutually beneficial community partnerships, including Curtin Volunteers!, to enable projects such as:

Through its parent company Placer Dome Inc, ‘Granny Smith’ is part of the World Alliance for Community Health. In association with four other companies, Placer Dome is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to rid indigenous communities of malaria and other mosquito borne diseases in several areas of Papua New Guinea. Placer Dome is the only mining company in the world to have had more than one project approved by WHO.

Granny Smith and Placer Dome have eschewed short-term profits, through a longer-term strategy that seeks to build public confidence in the company as a responsible corporate citizen.

The awarding of the John Curtin Medal to Granny Smith Gold Mine Company acknowledges and acclaims publicly the stand ‘Granny Smith’ has taken regarding setting mining industry benchmarks for working with indigenous communities and establishing sustainability practices. The award should also engender the support of the wider community for mining companies who respect the needs of people and the environment they live in.